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The skeletal morphology of the solemydid turtle Naomichelys speciosa from the Early Cretaceous of Texas

  • Walter G. Joyce (a1), Juliana Sterli (a2) and Sandra D. Chapman (a3)

The fossil record of solemydid turtles is primarily based on isolated fragments collected from Late Jurassic to Late Cretaceous sediments throughout North America and Europe and little is therefore known about the morphology and evolutionary history of the group. We here provide a detailed description of the only known near-complete solemydid skeleton, which was collected from the Lower Cretaceous (Aptian–Albian) Antlers Formation of Texas during the mid-twentieth century, but essentially remains undescribed to date. Though comparison is limited, the skeleton is referred to Naomichelys speciosa, which is based on an isolated entoplastron from the Lower Cretaceous (Aptian–Albian) Kootenai (Cloverly) Formation of Montana. The absence of temporal emarginations, contribution of the jugals to the orbits, and a clear subdivision of the middle and inner cavities, and the presence of elongate postorbitals, posteriorly expanded squamosals, a triangular fossa at the posterior margin of the squamosals, an additional pair of tubercula basioccipitale that is formed by the pterygoids, foramina pro ramo nervi vidiani (VII) that are visible in ventral view, shell sculpturing consisting of high tubercles, a large entoplastron with entoplastral scute, V-shaped anterior peripherals, and limb osteoderms with tubercular sculpture diagnose Naomichelys speciosa as a representative of Solemydidae. The full visibility of the parabasisphenoid complex in ventral view, the presence of an expanded symphyseal shelf, and the unusual ventromedial folding of the coronoid process are the primary characteristics that distinguish Naomichelys speciosa from the near-coeval European taxon Helochelydra nopcsai.

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